People smugglers deploying bigger boats to combat rougher autumn seas

People smugglers are deploying bigger boats carrying an average of 30 migrants each to combat rougher autumn seas, say Border Force, as a record 2,400 attempted to cross the Channel in just three days.

Nearly 1,500 of the 2,400 migrants who tried to cross the Channel from Friday through to Sunday reached the UK, using just over 50 boats.

It means the 1,568 migrants who reached the UK this month are already three times last October’s total of 475 with two-thirds of the month still to go. A record total of more than 18,600 migrants have crossed the Channel so far this year, compared with 8,410 for the whole of 2020.

It came as security minister Damian Hinds said the Home Office would start paying the French the £54 million it has promised for extra patrols on the beaches, surveillance and migrant reception centres despite France failing to hit its targets.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has been withholding the money to pressurise the French into stopping three-quarters of migrant attempts. However, the weekend data showed they stopped fewer than four in ten.

Mr Hinds said: "I would like to see increased activity, increased turnback (of migrants). France is a safe country. If you are seeking asylum you should claim it in the first safe country you come to."

But he added that there was an "administrative process" currently being worked through rather than any "political question" which had led to the delay in France getting the money.

Asked when the cash would be given to the French, Mr Hinds said: "Absolutely we are working closely with the French and I expect that question that you have raised to be finalised in the coming weeks."

He was responding after Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, said on Saturday that the UK had paid “not a euro” of the £54 million following the deal negotiated with Ms Patel. “The English are people of honour, so I am certain that it is an accounting delay,” he said.

Some 624 migrants reached the UK on Friday in 30 boats with 300 prevented by the French. On Saturday it was 491 in 17 boats that got to the UK with just 114 stopped by the French. And on Sunday it was 364 in 11 boats with 511 in 16 boats prevented by the French.

“We know the smugglers adapt their tactics depending on the conditions and the enforcement activity.  The bigger boats are harder to hide but are more profitable and more suited to the conditions,” said a source.

“The rougher conditions of the past two weeks meant that they were going to take full advantage of this window of better weather.”

Alp Mehmet, chair of Migration Watch UK, said: “Larger boats and greater overload makes turning them back even more precarious. Detaining and returning migrants crossing illegally is the only answer. The French must stop playing games and be made to see sense.”

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